This year's workshop was a great success. Here are three highlights so you don't have to feel like you've missed out.

The Collaborators Workshop runs each year and is organised by the Software Sustainability Institute, the workshop adheres to an unconference style: most of agenda is committed to group discussions and rapid lightning talks. The format is much more engaging for the delegates, especially by avoiding long talks that many delegates find taxing.

I thoroughly enjoyed the event and would recommend it to anybody who relies on software, especially for research. If you are in two minds about attending next year's workshop or something similar, here are three quick highlights from the workshop to give you a flavour of what to expect next year.

Keynote - Dr. Hudson-Smith (CASA)

Dr. Hudson-Smith from the Barlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA) at UCL had the privilege of delivering the only talk of over 15 minutes.

Hudson-Smith presented a refreshingly honest keynote of his career history and some insights into CASA's current research. He expounded on the importance of tailoring research communication to engage with public interest and encourage discussions of the science behind the story.

CASA manages this by creating eye-wateringly cool visualisations and simulations of their spatial data. A lot of this is done using gaming engines - such as Unity 5 Pro - an idea that seemed relevant and incredibly effective.

"I would argue that the term 'gaming', in its broader context, should be seriously brought into research"

Dr. Hudson-Smith

The unconference style

This was my first experience of a self-professed unconference, and I wasn't sure what to expect. All delegates were considered to be participants, which I found quite refreshing and, surprisingly, far less tiring than a traditional conference.

The lightning talks disseminated a huge number of topics, whilst keeping everyone engaged and follow-up discussions were always fruitful.

I am not sure that the unconference style could be applied universally. The Collaborators Workshop has a very broad scope application, rather than a narrow and detailed scope. This shifted the delegates burden from understanding complex material to communicating across their disciplinary boundaries. I think the unconference style lends itself particularly well to such interdisciplinary conferences.

That said, I think that traditional conferences could benefit from unconference style inspiration, especially for more practical engagements of delegates. I will certainly be mimicking some of the techniques for this year's Student Conference on Complexity Science (SCCS2015).

Take-home themes

The event was wrapped up with Neil Chue Hong, director of the SSI, presenting the main themes that arose from the discussions. And here they are:

  1. When working across multiple disciplines, embrace the feeling of being an imposter.
  2. A research object carries much more scientific value than a stand-alone journal article.
  3. Everyone is using Python, everyone is interested in Docker, everyone is trying to share code/data.
  4. Reuse shouldn't be a burden but true reproducability can be.
  5. We are a community and we want to be communicating.

For more information check out the SSI's own blog right here.


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